Removal of Santa Anita’s synthetic surface began Oct. 11 as the first step in replacing it with a dirt surface. Track officials are close to deciding the mix of materials to be used as the surface material, with input from horsemen.
Plans call for installation of the dirt surface to be completed by about Dec. 1, said project manager Ted Malloy. Horses are expected to be allowed to begin training Dec. 5 for the Santa Anita winter meeting, which opens Dec. 26.
Malloy said the removal of the synthetic surface will take two to three weeks. Track management and horsemen are investigating several different dirt mixes to come up with the best and safest surface. Several plots of material are undergoing testing in the area just west of Santa Anita’s main oval.
Malloy and George Haines, Santa Anita’s president, said that the dirt surface will be made up of a sand component, clay and silt, and pond fines. The testing is examining several different mixes of these three materials.
Once Santa Anita management determines the best mix, it will undergo further testing under the direction of the California Horse Racing Board, Haines said. The University of California at Davis will test it, as will Dr. Mick Peterson from the University of Maine. Peterson is the executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.
“We want to make sure we have the right parameters for the soil,” said Haines.
The CHRB still must approve a waiver for Santa Anita to return to a dirt surface. Originally, the CHRB mandated that all major California Thoroughbred tracks convert to a synthetic surface.
Santa Anita has undergone two renovations of its initial Cushion Track surface, installed in 2007. The track has not drained properly, leading to the loss of several days of racing. Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach in August announced he would replace the synthetic surface with dirt in time for the 2010-11 winter meeting.